James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense and energy and a CIA chief, dies at age 85

The Associated Press

FILE - This Aug. 24, 2004 file photo shows former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, chairman of the Detention Operations Review Panel speaking at the Pentagon. A Washington think tank confirms Schlesinger has died. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)

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James Rodney Schlesinger was born in 1929, in New York City. He earned bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees in economics — all from Harvard.

Schlesinger taught economics at the University of Virginia and published "The Political Economy of National Security," a look at the economics of foreign policy. The Rand Corp. hired him and later he became director of the think tank's strategic studies. In 1969, he joined the Nixon administration in 1969 as assistant White House budget director, specializing in defense matters.

Schlesinger traveled through Western Europe, Africa and Asia in 1950-51 on a fellowship. Some years later, he said, "I learned that the world was a very complicated place and that the narrow discipline of economics gave a narrow insight into the social life of man."

In later years, he served as chairman of the board of the Mitre Corporation, a nonprofit based in Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va., that operates federally funded defense research and development centers. He also was a longtime member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and served as counselor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He also was a senior adviser to Lehman Brothers until the giant U.S. investment bank collapsed in September 2008, an early casualty of the Great Recession.

In 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates picked Schlesinger to lead a task force that made recommendations on improvements in the handling of nuclear weapons. In 2009, he joined six other former CIA directors in asking President Barack Obama to end the Justice Department's criminal probe into the harsh interrogations of terror suspects during the Bush administration.

His wife, born Rachel Mellinger, died of cancer in 1995. She was a concert violinist and board member of the Arlington (Va.) Symphony. They had eight children.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

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